April 29, 2009

More about tapers and puppies

After months of training for the Vancouver Marathon – set for Sunday with 13 competitors from Squamish – I was about to start my taper. That's when volume and intensity drop significantly – in my case from an average of eight hours a week to three - to allow the body time to rest and recover before a key race.

Not only is the taper a great excuse to be lazy after months of hard work, it is also crucial to a good performance in the marathon.

While a good taper - ie plenty of rest mentally and physically - doesn’t guarantee a good marathon, a bad taper guarantees a bad marathon. This marathon will be my 10th and I’m aiming to finish in less than 3 hours 7 minutes. Every Sunday morning over the past four months I either pounded the pavement in Squamish for up to three hours, or the treadmill at Club Flex, followed by a 30-minute run in the afternoon.

During the week I ran another four days including two speed sessions – the latter best summed up as short and painful - and did two hours of weight training.

I truly love running and the resulting feeling of fitness and wellbeing. My partner Tim, a triathlete training for Ironman Canada, and I had talked about getting a dog one day, and more seriously since settling in Squamish last September.

Our search started at the BC SPCA website which has a wealth of information – including up-to-date postings of adoptable dogs and other animals. Our preference was to adopt a dog from the Squamish branch. And we didn’t have to wait long.

Four weeks ago, one puppy photo made my heart jump. Two days later Tim and I met this four-month-old guy, likely a Border collie and Labrador retriever mix. We liked him instantly – partly because of his high energy – but took another four days to consider the responsibilities and time commitment involved. After a second meeting, we filled out the adoption papers and brought Luka home on April 12.

It was good that we liked his energy because he has plenty of it - testing our limits. I had registered to race the Vancouver Sun Run 10km but after the work involved in housetraining, caring for and bonding with Luka during the first week I was too exhausted to even make it to the startline.

As first-time dog owners we also realized within days that we needed more help than that offered by our dog-loving families and friends. Squamish-based professional dog trainer Tiffany Wall has since provided invaluable advice during three one-on-one sessions, one late-night phone call and two puppy classes. Luka’s immediate response to our new skills is a testament to those of Tiffany.

This week Tim has taken care of Luka’s exercise needs, allowing me to focus on my final race preparations including rest. While this taper may not have been as quiet as it needed to be, our new puppy has definitely been worth it.

Luka will come to watch Sunday’s marathon with Tim as it is great for his socialization. And once he's a bit older, he’ll probably make a great running partner.

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